Survivors of abuse often seek justice in a variety of ways. Justice can take the form of financial compensation. While no route to obtaining compensation is perfect, in some cases, applying to a bespoke compensation scheme can have its advantages.
In January 2006, an inquiry into two private schools in London, horrifyingly revealed that pupils had been subject to criminal levels of abuse for over 20 years from the 1970s.
The schools of St James in South Kensington and St Vedast in Hampstead in London, owned and operated by the Independent Educational Association Limited, were set up by the School of Economics Science (“SES”) in 1975. The SES is an organisation critics describe as a cult, with strict rules, whose devotees lead a spartan existence, isolating themselves from the rest of the world.
Pupils of the schools were subject to SES principals, as the schools purported to follow its doctrine. Dorine Trolley and Brian Hodgkinson, as well as other publications. Notably, Tolley describes the work of SES members within her book as "a place where a person’s comfort zone was shattered, where they were exposed, stretched to the limit, physically and emotionally". Some beliefs concerning food and sleep led to excessive physical and mental demands leading to alarming results.
Evidence shows that regimes implemented at the schools were arbitrary and oppressive, and seemed to be perpetrated on children solely for the gratification of teachers’ own anger and insecurities. Teachers committed various degrees of physical and emotional abuse on pupils, with the intention of breaking down their spirits to become compliant members of the SES.
According to the inquiry report, abuse consisted of both emotional and physical assaults and was perpetrated by various staff members at the schools, both male and female. Physical assaults included but were not limited to children having heads banged hard together, excessive beatings by cane as punishment for normal behaviour, children being picked up by their hair and thrown, and having items thrown at them such as cricket balls and blackboard rubbers. Pupils were also made to clean excessively in ice-cold showers, do push-ups in stinging nettles and were forced to urinate in the middle of a classroom in front of classmates. Students were forced also to eat cold food and were often left hungry. They were also humiliated regularly; one former pupil recalls being picked on by a teacher, who consistently told she was evil, wicked, dirty and deceitful in front of her peers, being constantly accused of wrongdoings and often singled out.
Many children were severely mistreated and tormented, in particular, those who were children of single parents, parents of non-English descent or born out of wedlock.
A redress scheme was set up following the disclosure of multiple allegations of abuse by former pupils. Nearly £1 million in compensation has been paid to dozens of former students at St James and St Vedast following historical allegations.
Most recently, our firm represented Mr X and Miss Y, who were victims of serious and protracted physical and emotional abuse whilst pupils at St James and St Vedast. Their claims were dealt with under the compensation scheme set up by the schools.
Case Study – Mr X
Mr X was a victim of physical and emotional abuse at St James during the early 1980s. He suffered greatly from levels of violence and emotional torment aimed at him by numerous staff members of the school. The experience left him feeling broken and neglected, and consequently achieved low academic achievement and has ever since struggled to cope with normal life, suffering from a lack of self-worth, difficulty with relationships, anxiety and depression.
Case Study – Miss Y
Miss Y was also a victim of physical and emotional abuse whilst a pupil at St Vedast during the 1970s and 1980s. Like Mr X, Miss Y fell victim to severe levels of assaults by various staff members at the school. Amongst numerous physical attacks such as having classroom objects being thrown at her
face and being forced to scrub school floors and work in the kitchen, she was also made to believe that she was wicked an not good enough through their constant criticism.
Miss Y was a particularly vulnerable child, who did not have any family members around her to tell of the abuse, and feels as though her confidence and educational prospects were greatly inhibited by the treatment she received at school. As a result, Miss Y has suffered from a lack of self-worth,
shame and relationship difficulties, anxiety, depression and trust issues.
Mr X and Miss Y were able to successfully obtain substantial settlements of compensation after bringing a compensation claim via the school’s redress scheme.
Whilst we recognise no amount of money can obliterate the harm suffered at the hands of the teachers at the schools, it is hoped the sum awarded will help both former pupils find some closure and will aid their recovery through helping to access specialist treatment.
Redress compensation schemes can facilitate swifter resolution of an applicant’s claim for compensation. They can be an adequate vehicle for financial redress where there are otherwise insurmountable legal obstacles, such as time limits and evidential problems. They can provide a
victim/survivor with more certainty of success. It should be noted that such schemes often do not compensate for lost earnings and are limited to awards for pain and suffering, and possibly some treatment costs only.
If a compensation scheme has been set up, a victim/survivor will need to weigh up the pros and cons of proceeding with the help of professional specialist legal advice. We would be pleased to assist.